I used to ignore my instincts on big decisions and rush into them. I would lean on others’ advice and disregard my own doubts. Even on huge decisions like getting married or buying a house.

Now long divorced and having moved several times, I have learned to listen to my heart rather than external influences. Before my last move, I chose the wrong house on the wrong street in the wrong city. It had a beautiful interior and my mother (who does not live with me) liked it. After 18 lonely months in what had initially looked like a perfect house, I packed two suitcases and moved into a room in a shared house 250 miles away, determined not to make the same mistakes again.

This time when looking for a new home, I took my time and followed my heart.

Finally, I chose a small semi-detached 1930’s house on a quiet street, entirely because of how it makes me feel.

I had already viewed dozens of houses and this one did not stand out from others on the house-buying app, yet as soon as I saw it in real life it felt different.

Quite shabby and lost on first encounter, I felt at home the moment I crossed the threshold. The house hugged and reassured me and tentatively I hugged it back.

I went away and kept thinking about the house. My heart felt good and I decided to trust myself and the house. I put in an offer and it was accepted. Buying it was not a straightforward process. It was lockdown. I started having doubts about my decision in case it was another mistake and backed off;  then the vendor had doubts about selling and ceased communication.  Six months after first viewing, the sale completed on what would have been my wedding anniversary. It took another four months to make it habitable but I persisted and created ‘my place’.

I spent a long time getting to know my new home and blending my life with it. Creating an open-plan living/dining space where I love working because of its airiness and connection to the garden.  This room has high ceilings, a wooden floor, three windows and a glass door to the garden which is always open in summer. There are roses in front of the house and fruit trees at the back. 

Now, three years after moving in, I am glad I trusted my instincts. It might not be my forever home but for now, my cat and I are enjoying living here.

And, you know what, it is a similar process choosing a fellow human. 

In a romantic relationship it is vital – for me at least – to choose a potential partner according to the feelings they ignite rather than what they have or what they do. Feelings unite human beings. Not status or words. Feelings cannot lie. Pictures on dating apps cannot interpret feelings needed for a successful relationship.

When we over-ride our instincts at first encounters, a relationship is doomed. That ‘yes-but’ reasoning kicks in as we convince ourselves that it could be ok. Even if something is off-kilter and we would advise a best friend to walk away.

Things like, “yes, I know he laughed when I told him my hamster has died and he’s wearing a feather boa to hide the tattoo of a machete on his neck – but he’s offered me a ticket to the premier of the new James Bond film next week so maybe I’ll hang around and see how it goes”  

[That one was a disaster].

If, on the other hand, the initial feeling is warm and light, it’s a better start. Fun, and laughter are always attractive.

Then after the first date, if the feeling is mutual, we arrange to meet again.  And again see how it feels (better, worse, indifferent?). There’s no guide book and no deadline to making things work out. All you can do is trust your instinct and feelings. Just like viewing a house.

How difficult is it to show your vulnerability and to acknowledge the other person’s foibles? Damp spots? Leaky pipes? How risky to share your dreams and fears openly? How welcome do you feel in the relationship? There is no fixed path or timeline. Just like renovating an old house, it takes patience and care from both sides of the equation before you know if you want to move to the next stage and make it/him/her your ‘home’.

I viewed my house many times, walking past at different times of day and night before even deciding to put in an offer. Why would finding a life-partner be any easier?

Before making a rash decision in romance, I always think it wise to see how we both feel about the ‘l’ word: